Lee Terry and Brad Ashford spar in debate


September 26th, 2014

Omaha, NE – As of Thursday night just 40 days remain until Election Day in November and both of the major-party candidates for Nebraska’s Second Congressional district met on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus to both promote and defend their respective stances on the issues during a live televised debate.


Republican incumbent Lee Terry is seeking a ninth term in congress after first being elected in 1998. Terry, 52, has won each congressional election since then, but his margin of winning in recent races has significantly narrowed. In 2006, Terry won by 10 points, in 2008 it was four and by the 2012 election Terry’s margin of victory fell to just two points, when he defeated his Democratic challenger John Ewing.

During the debate, Democratic challenger Brad Ashford repeatedly touted his 16 years representing District 20 in the Nebraska unicameral. Senator Ashford, 64, who has been both a registered Republican and Independent, is now aligned with the Democrats. He said his bipartisan and centrist approach to politics will be an advantage in Washington, if he is elected. He said the most important thing he can do for the Second District and the nation is to to work across the aisle with members of all political persuasions. An example, Sen. Ashford pointed to his work in the unicameral reforming Nebraska’s juvenile justice system.

Rep. Lee terry is seeking an unprecedented ninth term as Nebraska's congressman in the 2nd district. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Rep. Lee terry is seeking an unprecedented ninth term as Nebraska’s congressman in the 2nd district. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

“The one thing that I think was been plaguing Nebraska for so many years is the tough issue of juvenile justice and juvenile crime,” Sen. Ashford said. “Over the last three to four years in the legislature years we’ve worked across party lines and unanimously passed major reform of our juvenile justice system.”

Rep. Lee Terry said during in his tenure in Congress he has worked to pass many pieces of legislation that he is proud of. But he stated that his primary focus has been to promote energy independence for America.

“Making our resources accessible, but also in the world of renewable fuels as well,” Rep. Terry said. “It was me and a Democrat that was able to get a bill passed that allowed for research of hydrogen vehicles as well as others.”

When it came to foreign policy issues, Rep. Terry said he believes the government should be very wary of risking American lives to combat terrorism abroad.

“It has to be in the national security interest of our nation. If you are under the threat of attack then I think you have to respond,” Rep. Terry said. “Certainly with ISIL, in the meeting I have attending, they are a clear threat.”

Sen. Ashford agreed with Rep. Terry over his reluctance to send American troops abroad. Turning to the subject of American troops in Afghanistan, Rep. Terry said he wants the withdrawal of troops to continue, but only when ‘Afghanistan can stand on their own legs.

“In Iraq when we pulled out to fast, we created a vacuum, because the government wasn’t ready yet,” Rep. Terry said. “That vacuum is going to be filled. That vacuum was filled in Iraq by ISIL and that could happen again in Afghanistan if we pull out too quickly.

Senator Ashford agreed with Rep. Terry that American military forces should stay the course in Afghanistan ‘until the democracy is set.’

State Sen. Brad Ashford is looking to unseat Lee Terry in Nebraska's second congressional district. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

State Sen. Brad Ashford is looking to unseat Lee Terry in Nebraska’s second congressional district. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

“What is amazing to me is the effectiveness of our military in the Middle East,” Sen Ashford said. “I agree with Lee on this, I think we should maintain our presence in Afghanistan until we’ve made some progress with the new government that has just been elected. “

In a discussion of economic issues, Rep. Terry believes things are a bit shaky but he said he has a sense that things are going in the right direction.

“The first thing is we have to continue to expand our economy,” Rep. Terry said. “There is a lot of thing we should be doing to make sure our economy is growing. With more jobs creates pressure on wages, in fact I am seeing wages in our metropolitan area going up. There are open manufacturing jobs right now that are $20 per hour where maybe a couple years ago they would have been far less than that.”

Senator Ashford then took issue with Rep. Terry’s view on the economy.

“We need to unleash our economy,” Sen. Ashford said. “Lee has been in Congress now for 14 years, in that time, we have not had corporate tax reform in that time. We have to bring the $2 trillion back to America and get our country moving again.”

Rep. Terry agreed that the corporate tax needs to be simpler and flatter and he called it an ‘old code for a different time.’ Both Ashford and Terry agreed on bringing corporations back to America.

Sticking with the economy, Sen. Ashford said there also needs to be a boost in the minimum wage to low-income workers. He also noted a large gap in pay for women.

“In the last 14 or 15 years GDP has increased by about 40%, and the median family income has increased by about 8%, so there is a gap,” Sen. Ashford said. “We also need to push equal pay for women. Congress needs to work together to get these things past. It’s been five years since the minimum wage was raised.”

Sen. Ashford also pointed out that growing income inequality in American must be addressed by the congress. He said he would vote for a minimum wage increase. Terry however said he would not support a minimum wage increase. He focused not on the wage gap, but what he called the ‘skills gap.’

“The best ways to get people high paying jobs is to give them the skills necessary to succeed,” Rep. Terry said.

On the subject of healthcare, Ashford said he wouldn’t have voted for the Affordable Care Act.

“No I don’t support the employer mandate,” Sen Ashford said. “Employers already have a benefit for providing insurance and quite frankly I do agree employers could make a full-time employee, a part-time employee. There are 150 million Americans covered by employers insurance and I think that will continue.”

Sen. Ashford said there is a more work to be done and not just simply voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Terry said the ACA must be repealed and called it horrible law saying it damaged the economy.

“Far more people have come to me and talked about the higher costs of insurance now,” Rep. Terry said. Businesses have told me about how they’ve changed employees from full-time to part-time or that if they don’t get some relief, they could go out of business.”

Ashford said ‘voting to repeal it 56 times isn’t the answer,’ he added, ‘neither is waiting four years to fix it.’

Issues like immigration, veterans’ benefits, the fight against Ebola and the Keystone XL pipeline were among the other topics during debate.

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